John Casey to Read at U.Va. Bookstore Nov. 17

November 03, 2010

November 3, 2010 — Author and University of Virginia English professor John Casey will read from his new novel, "Compass Rose," on Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. on the U.Va. Bookstore mezzanine.

"Compass Rose" takes readers back to the Rhode Island coast and the characters he created in "Spartina," which won the 1989 National Book Award for fiction. Rose is the name of one of the main characters, born to Elsie Buttrick from an affair with fisherman Dick Pierce. Casey tells their story, with Pierce as the main protagonist, in "Spartina.

In the Nov. 7 New York Times Book Review, Dominique Browning calls Casey's new novel about the small coastal community of Rhode Island's South County "beautiful, elegiac."
"The compass rose is an ancient and beautiful figure that marks the angular differences between cardinal and magnetic directions, north, south, east and west. Theoretically, the compass rose is now embedded in almost all navigational systems — it locates us. Any seafarer knows constantly to ask the question, 'Where am I?' To ignore the answer is to put one's life at peril. But this question is also urgent for anyone trying to chart a course through daily life. We need our inner compasses: where you are is who you are. Long after reading the last pages of 'Compass Rose,' I'm still thinking about how we establish ourselves as one another's magnetic directions — and hold fast."

Casey's other works include the novels "The Half-Life of Happiness" and "An American Romance"; a collection of short stories plus a novella in "Testimony and Demeanor"; and translations of the Italian novels, "You're an Animal, Viskovitz," written by Alessandro Boffa, and "Enchantments," written by Linda Ferri.

He came to the U.Va.'s College of Arts & Sciences in 1972. He had to resign his position in 1993 when he won a Mildred and Harold Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters. The award required that he hold no other job while receiving $50,000 a year for five years. After that time, he came back to U.Va.'s Creative Writing Program.

Casey was born in 1939 in Worcester, Mass., and graduated from Harvard University and the University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop. He also has a law degree from Harvard, but chose a writing career when he took a workshop with the late Peter Taylor. After Taylor joined U.Va.'s English department, he persuaded Casey to give teaching a try.

— By Anne Bromley